I’m sitting cross-legged on my bed with my roommate stretched out on the rug in front of me. She still has a lanyard of keys in her hand after having just walked in the door.
I still have black make-up smeared under my eyes from having to deliver yet another untimely and disheartening goodbye speech an hour prior. A good-bye I never wanted, but knew was needed.
As I’m venting, waving my hands around in the air, I say out loud the title of this article.
“People aren’t band-aids for brokenness.”
My roommate looks up at me and smiles.
“You should write about that.”
When I was younger, I thought there was something romantic and heroic about trying to fix someone. The idea of being the one to help them heal and find themselves enticed the hell out of me.
It seemed noble, purposeful and rewarding. I thought I’d eventually get through all the muck and confusing mistreatment, and on the other end be able to say, “I helped you get here! I stayed!” And they’d, I don’t know, sweep me off my feet? Shower me in kisses and gratitude?
Yeah, that’s not how it goes.
It really, really isn’t.
If someone isn’t right within themselves, you can’t fix them. You can’t make a person grow up if they aren’t ready. You can’t convince someone to want to be better. You can’t give a person healing or direction. They have to find it themselves.
It’s not about romance. It’s not about compatibility. It’s not even about love.
It’s the fact that even though we humans live an intertwined existence, we ultimately are each our own.
We have our own journeys. We have our own fears, flaws and dreams. We have our own past traumas and baggage we carry. We have our own timelines for growing up, moving on and becoming the people we are meant to be.
I say this as someone who has made this mistake repeatedly, on BOTH ends of the spectrum.
I’ve been the healer and the one seeking healing in the arms of another. And in both instances, I ROYALLY crashed and burned.
I’ve jumped into a new relationship when I wasn’t healed from the last one and ended up hurting someone in the process. I’ve been lonely and frustrated and used that as an excuse to force someone into my life that I knew wouldn’t fit. I’ve made promises I couldn’t keep. I’ve screwed up.
I’ve tried to use human beings as emotional band-aids and quickly regretted the careless and selfish decision to do so.
Because I’ve also had it done to me. And it’s cruel. If you aren’t ready for something, you need to be self-aware enough to know that, and brave enough to communicate it. No matter where you are in life’s wild journey, you have to respect the feelings of others, always.
As for the fixers, I understand you too. When I was younger, I tried way too many times to be the fixer; to be a human band-aid. In typical Lexi fashion, I’ll tell you how. Because it might sound familiar.
I once had a boyfriend who was super lost career-wise. He was older than me but stuck in a major rut. He had lost direction. At the time, it made him miserable. Negative. Resentful. Uncertain about everything in his life, including his feelings for me.
And I wasn’t in that place at all. I was working hard and moving forward. I knew what I wanted and where I was headed, and I was gaining major speed towards my goals. I wanted to help him and bring him with me. I was relentless in my attempts to do so. But all that did was drive us further apart. Because it had to be something he achieved on his own (and he later did).
When we broke up, I remember him saying, “I’m not going to live my life in your shadow, Lexi. And you can’t ask me to.”
That hit me HARD and stuck with me for years to come when I met other men who weren’t secure with themselves and their professional goals or current situation. You have to be able to meet at the same place, or at the very least be content/supportive if it differs. But this isn’t just professional, it’s personal too.
The man I thought I was going to marry encountered a different kind of struggle when we were together. The soul-shattering, earth-shaking kind of experience that changes everything; that converts life into a series of befores and afters. Before and after the worst thing happened. Before and after the world shook. And that experience is loss. Trauma. Unexpected pain.
Again, no amount of effort or love on my part was going to take that away, no matter how hard I tried. And, again, most of my attempts made everything worse. I carried a suffocating amount of guilt about this for years to come, feeling a deep failure that I couldn’t be the band-aid he needed on that brokenness. But no one could be. We heal on our own, in our own ways, and sometimes better apart.
Let me tell you, that realization is heartbreaking. It’s horrible. Especially if you have been with someone for a very long time and love them deeply. It’s natural to want to save them. It’s normal to want to heal them. But you have to know you can’t.
I am not trying to downplay how difficult it is to realize this and part ways with someone you care about. But whether it’s short-term or long-term, you have to know when to let go. It’s a part of life, and it makes you stronger.
All we can do from these experiences is LEARN. And recognize this toxic cycle within ourselves as we grow and seek reciprocal, healthy relationships with others.
When I entered my own season of healing as an adult, I took a long period of time to be on my own and process everything that happened. Years, actually. I dove into my career, into old books and self-reflection. I boarded long flights to places I couldn’t afford to travel to. I wrote more than I have in my entire life. I spent so much time alone and learned to appreciate it.
I fell in love with the only person whose brokenness I could ever truly heal; me.
I knew I had a heavy burden to work through, and I didn’t want to put that weight on the shoulders of anyone else. I’d learned my lesson from the mistakes I made when I was younger.
I knew it wouldn’t have been fair. Just because I was hurting, didn’t mean I had a right to drag anyone else into my hurricane in hopes they may have somehow known how to calm the storm. It was my storm to calm, and my storm only.
So in time, I did calm it.
And now, I know not to try to fix other people either. I know if that’s the situation I am in, it’s always better to walk away and let go.
I know if they’re lost I can’t help them find direction. I know if they’re afraid or immature or hurting that my presence in their life isn’t going to change that. And I shouldn’t have to.
Because that’s the most important reason you shouldn’t try to fix someone or force something; why you’re no one’s band-aid. Not only does it never work, but it breaks you down in the process.
It means accepting less than you deserve in an attempt to give someone something they have to find on their own.
It means sacrificing your own standards and making excuses for behavior you know isn’t fair to you.
It means feeling guilty and anxious about not being able to solve a problem that isn’t yours to solve.
We each have enough of our own issues to try to fix those of others, and often our time spent doing so is time taken away from working on ourselves.
As much as we may care about someone, our journeys don’t always align. Timing isn’t always on our side. That’s ok. It sucks and it might at times make you want to scream “COME ON!!!” out loud in the car to whatever god you pray to. But it’s ok.
It’s no one’s fault. There’s no one to blame. It’s good ole’ life in it’s rawest, most unpredictable and at times most frustrating form. You just have to recognize it, have the strength to walk away, and the bravery to move on.
Whether you’re the one that needs to do the work on yourself, or the person you’re with does, remember this phrase:
People aren’t band-aids for brokenness.
You can’t be someone else’s band-aid and they can’t be yours. I use band-aids as an example because they’re only a temporary, often supplemental solution to true healing. That’s what it’s like when we try to use people to heal. We all need much more than that in the end.
It’s tough to recognize but you always know it in your gut. Listen to yourself. Have grace and compassion. Show respect. Be mature. Remember that we are all human, and we have a ways to go in this life.
Hold on to hope that one day, after all the learning, you’ll find someone who’s just as self-aware and self-content as you are. Someone that knows who they are, what they want and how to be in a healthy relationship.
This struggle will be a thing of the past, something you encountered in your twenties when we were all experiencing a wild amount of transition and personal discovery.
It’ll be a time you look back on with gratitude, for teaching you what it means to fill yourself with courage and wisdom in the face of adversity. To be a real hero. But not one trapped in the endless pursuit of healing others who aren’t yours to heal.
It’s how you learn to be a hero for the only person you should be saving.